Tag Archives: turmeric

Herbal Allies // Turmeric Lassi

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I finished my fourth term in nutrition grad school last Friday. I haven’t shared much about it here but this last winter has been intense. It was the best yet in terms of how much I’ve enjoyed the content and knowledge I’m acquiring. It has been a long haul though and because it coincided with tax season (for William) and spring marathon training for me, life has mostly consisted of attempting to completely fill up my brain with tough biochemical and physiological concepts and then subsequently trying to turn it all off, unplug as much as possible, and just run.

Motivation for any sort of inspired eating kind of went by the wayside. And I never realized how much being able to share just one meal a day with my favorite human is helpful for me to maintain a healthy relationship to food until he worked the craziest hours. Turns out, I’m equally good at doing the same when he wasn’t around to stop me.

It is time for a short stint of rest and focusing on other projects now, for the both of us.

Did I tell you I (of course) chose the longest concentration option of my nutrition program? I am focusing on herbal medicine as a component of clinical nutrition. Back in early 2016, I spoke to why I hadn’t enrolled in the nutrition program at my nearest university and really searched around for one that fit, that merged my interest in herbal medicine, ancient healing modalities such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, and had the rigorous scientific component I was craving. The program I ended up with fits me so well. I’ve pretty much loved every class, even as the content has gotten much more technical. The herbal classes, while still plenty intensive, have been welcome to continue engaging in creativity with the content I’m learning during this time.

One of the practicing herbalists in my program taught me early on that specific herbs will speak to us, we will develop an affinity for them, and we should trust that. Cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric are my little trinity that ‘speak to me’ the most and I find myself adding them to meals and drinks on a fairly daily basis. I’ve shared about them more than once before in Turmeric Ginger Seed + Nut Bars, Tahini, Date + Turmeric Bars, and my Good Energy Maca Latte.

Now that the weather has warmed a bit too, I’m more inclined to incorporate cooler, smoothie-type snacks and mini-meals into my routine. This Turmeric Lassi is my longtime go-to smoothie when I feel like I need a refresh/mix up in my eating patterns, and I often reach for it during an interchange of seasons. With this stint between school trimesters and welcoming William back to regular dinners at home, it’s definitely a new season for us.

 

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So what is so great about the common herbs/spices in this recipe?

Cinnamon // While most of us know cinnamon as the comforting and feel-good spice for baked goods, there’s actually a fair bit of evidence to suggest cinnamon can be used in higher, medicinal doses to improve blood sugar imbalance in type 2 diabetics. That isn’t why I enjoy it, however. I like it because it is warming, stimulating, and improves circulation. Plus, it simply tastes and smells delicious.

Ginger // Common fresh or dried ginger is exceptionally beneficial in controlling inflammation and muscular pain, increases circulation, and also aids in digestion. Like cinnamon, it is a warming and pungent spice, and I particularly enjoy it both through the winter and on chilly spring days.

Turmeric //  One of the current “superfoods,” turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Much of the recent research points to it as a highly beneficial nearly catch-all herb, but it is most often associated with controlling inflammation and therefore improving joint and muscular health. The thing about turmeric that is not often shared, however, is that the beneficial curcumin compound it contains is exceptionally difficult to become bio-available in the body. Taking it with a small amount of ground black pepper and with another ingredient that contains fat helps turmeric work its magic in our systems.

Rosehips // The berries from wild dog roses are among nature’s richest and most-potent sources of Vitamin C, the vitamin we all associate with improving the immune system and warding off illness. It is a good herb to add in any time physical or mental stress is high.

 

Turmeric Lassi, makes 1
The spices here are in a higher, more medicinal dose than might be used in a standard smoothie recipe. I enjoy them but if you’re a little wary, begin with less and add more as desired. Though I make this with either applesauce or a banana, (and sometimes both instead of yogurt), I enjoy this more with applesauce. Using a banana will result in a sweeter smoothie if that’s more your interest. The photo above has a teaspoon of elderberry syrup swirled in for even more immune-enhancing effects. Elderberry is a tasty option for including if you feel a seasonal cold coming on. 

3/4 cup unsweetenened applesauce or 1 frozen banana
3/4 cup unsweetened plain coconut yogurt
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 – 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
dash of ground black pepper
1 tsp. rosehips powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. chia seeds
1 oz. fresh lemon juice (about 1/4 of a large lemon)
sweetener to taste, if needed (honey, maple syrup, powdered stevia leaves, etc.)
1 tsp. elderberry syrup, optional

  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor and puree until smooth. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the chia seeds to thicken it up a bit for a smoothie bowl.

Tahini, Date + Turmeric Bars

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Over the summer, I learned about 30 herbs and/or spices that are commonly used in western herbal medicine in my second herbal medicine class, and I really relished the opportunity to both broaden and deepen my understanding of natural plant medicines. In addition to learning that skullcap, the plant I had chosen to focus on learning about for an entire term in my first class, is the most popular herb sold through my university’s herbal dispensary, I spent the summer delving into a lot of research about specific herbs for treating inflammation and allergies due to my project for a client with seasonal allergies. I was limited to working with only the herbs in our class list, however, and because of that I chose a fairly non-traditional approach to working with allergies. Turmeric was among the herbs we studied, and though I did not end up recommending turmeric for allergies, I realized I easily could have and was probably expected to.

Though I know a lot more about the benefits of turmeric than I did before, there is much research to suggest that the curcumin compound it contains has extremely strong anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant abilities and it is beneficial in all manner of disorders and imbalances. Among others, it has antibacterial, anticancer, anti-rheumatic, anti-tumor, antiviral, anti-phlegmatic, and anti-parasitic properties. I’ve recommended it to my mom who has arthritis, runner friends for pain, and have taken it myself for (nearly instantaneous) relief after slamming my knee into a door. Though my knee incident was an exception, I take a different approach to using herbs than we would for pharmaceutical drugs; I don’t take them for their quick effect. Instead, herbs work to slowly and gently bring the body back into balance, and they work better in conjunction with other lifestyle supports, like getting enough rest, a balanced diet, exercise, etc.

Turmeric is extremely trendy right now, and while there is good reason for it to be, I also like this article about practicing caution with it, as with all herbal medicines. Too much of anything, even a supposed health food, can push us into imbalance. While I came to this conclusion on my own and no longer pop a curcumin supplement for running recovery “insurance” on a regular basis, I do tend to use it in small amounts frequently–and mostly because I really enjoy its flavor.

What I really enjoyed about the class is that we delved into the research on a number of common herbs and spices–ones we are already using and that aren’t the new trendy superfoods–like the ginger and cinnamon these bars contain. After 14 weeks of reading a ton of research articles, I finished the class even more in support of the importance of eating healthfully as the norm and using herbs and spices in small amounts throughout the day in whatever foods we’re eating so perhaps there’s a little less need to use any medicines–herbal or otherwise–to “fix” imbalances.

 

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Tahini, Date + Turmeric Bars, makes 8
I regularly rely on bars for after workouts and for busy afternoon snacks on the go. While I have a few versions of granola or energy bars on this blog that I do go back to, for the last few months I’ve been opting away from oats and grains as a main ingredient. Instead, I’ve been adapting a new favorite packaged bar. It has taken many renditions but now that I’ve finally gotten the base consistency to my liking (actually better than the packaged bar which I find a little too sweet,) I’m excited to begin delving into a few different flavor combinations, especially as William doesn’t favor my heavy affinity for the ginger/cinnamon/cardamom/turmeric spice combination and prefers the berry/fruity realm instead. For these bars, don’t forego the black pepper, as it helps the turmeric to be become more bioavailable. Additionally, for the options I’ve listed, the first is my favored ingredient but I also enjoyed the other options listed. Enjoy!

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup cashew or almond butter
3 medjool dates, pitted
6 Tbs. hemp protein powder or hemp seeds
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cardamom, optional
dash of black pepper
1 Tbs. brown rice syrup, apricot jam, maple syrup or honey
1-2 Tbs. water, as needed
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried figs or apricots, diced
2 cups crispy rice cereal or 2/3 cup oats, finely ground

  • Puree the tahini, nut butter, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, spices, and syrup in a food processor until completely combined. Add 1-2 Tbs. water as needed to bring it together, if it’s a little dry. You can also a little more syrup or another date but I found that option a little too sweet.
  • Then add the raisins, diced figs or apricots and crispy rice or finely ground oats. Puree a couple more times until these last ingredients are just incorporated but not completely broken down.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and then cut into individual bars, store, or eat as needed. They will last in the fridge for at least two weeks with no change in texture/consistency.

beans + rice for busy days, with turmeric special sauce

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Buckwheat, quinoa + millet mix, lentils, steamed beets, shaved rainbow carrots, sliced radishes, spring greens + turmeric special sauce.

 

Once a week, my coworkers and I eat lunch together during our staff meeting. We are all healthy-food loving ladies with different diets and food preferences, and we often begin the meeting looking around at each others lunches, thinking and sharing about how good they all look and how we’d like to trade. It is a great environment to work in, one of non-judgement and non-competitive respect and inspiration for eating well.

 

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Brown rice, lentils, sautéed cabbage, kale + matchstick carrots, sauerkraut + hemp seeds.

 

Prior to working with this group, I ate lunch with my fellow science teachers at the high school I taught at. It was the first time I had worked at a place where everyone took 30 minutes every day to sit down, eat together, and catch up. Those 30 minutes kept me sane, but I wasn’t at first keen about sitting around having others see what I ate every day. I didn’t want my coworkers to judge my weird food habits. I have a pet peeve with people telling me, You eat sooo healthy, in that envious/judgmental wayBut that never happened. Instead, I learned that everyone has weird food preferences, and no one cared what I was eating. It was pretty darn liberating.

A month or so ago, I spent a couple full days teaching at the high school. I brought my lunch with me and left it in the car. During the break, one of the students caught me on the way out and asked, You’re not eating? Is that why you’re so skinny? This was coming from a slightly overweight teenage male who was standing in the hallway, noticeably not eating also. I felt absolutely crushed at his response. After assuring him I was on my way to lunch, I asked about his own lack of food. He told me he was waiting for a friend. I don’t know whether he actually ate during that break, but I remember my own eating habits during that age, along with my former and current students’ tendency to skip breakfast and lunch. As I walked away, the interaction got to me. It was a really nice day, and I ended up eating my giant lunch bowl outside in the garden, in lieu of having more inquiring eyes looking on at my food choices.

 

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Brown rice, garbanzos, chopped collards and cabbage, diced beets, and carrot-miso spread

 

When I was teaching full time, many of my students asked about and observed what I ate. I could tell they were searching for a role model and they knew and loved talking about my tendency to eat the entire apple, drink lots of tea, and avoid all dairy and fast food. They thought it was all just plain weird but also cool. When some individuals approached me to talk about food and health, I tried to offer guidance that was actually helpful for where they were at. At the same time, I was conscious of not being too out there, both for their sake and mine. Out of self-preservation, I’ll do just about anything to avoid having a conversation that involves someone vocally comparing their body size to mine.

Inevitably, every time I work with a new group of high school students, I’m asked whether I’m vegetarian. This question always brings up a lot of personal anxiety and I tell them, no, I eat meat, and leave it at that. They don’t need to know it makes its way on my plate a couple times a year lately. My own personal viewpoint is that the adolescent and emerging adulthood years should be ones of exploration, and they don’t need me telling them they should follow a particular diet, cut out entire food groups, or ascribe to my food-belief system. I have entirely too much experience with disordered eating and body shaming to possibly lead someone toward that camp.

 

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Millet, goji berries, oranges, kale, roasted romanesco and delicata squash with a citrus vinaigrette, hazelnuts + baked tofu.

 

Instead, I try to simply emphasize more whole foods and less processed, in baby steps. I avoid making recommendations about foods I don’t personally choose to eat, but I also recognize that what works for me in terms of food choices does not work for everyone. I particularly enjoy the teachings of traditional medical paradigms like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, which emphasize eating to one’s personal constitution and the seasons. It is especially difficult to teach this concept to my high school students, as they are often trying to fit in and do what their friends are doing. As an adult, I’m only just beginning to feel especially comfortable eating and sharing what works for me.

 

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Quinoa, black beans, roasted Brussel sprouts and onions, kale + cumin-lime dressing.

 

I read recently in the book, Nourishing Wisdom, that women tend to engage in a silent competition during meals of who can eat the least, while men tend to openly compete for who can eat the most. I resonate strongly with the female side of that scenario and I am especially thankful that these last few years, my meals with co-workers have been free of that extremely harmful silent competition. Especially since what works for me tends to be beans + rice bowls, and the combinations are usually generously sized.

I’m curious, too, about the best way to approach these conversations about food with teenagers and individuals trying to find their way to healthy eating. How do we positively guide them? So far, I’ve focused on strengthening my self-confidence and relationship to food so I don’t feel the need to compare, and let the result of that show up by role-modeling positive behavior and conversation about eating, when it comes up. If you have another approach or successful experiences, I’d love to hear!

 

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Quinoa, garbanzos, roasted winter squash and bell peppers, mixed greens, cumin-lime dressing, + pumpkin seeds

 

The reason I’ve included so many random meals is that The Recipe Redux theme this month is breaking up the lunch rut. My lunches nearly always tend to be leftovers from the night before and often that means I’m eating what I call bean and rice bowls, even if they have no rice and are rarely eaten in a bowl. Sometimes, however, I pull random ingredients from the fridge and come up with something slightly new. Unlike a lot of people, I rarely enjoy eating out, especially for lunch. It is one thing I wish I were more comfortable with, but knowing exactly what I’m having for lunch is a little comforting ritual that I like to keep amidst busy days.

The only advice for creating a quick lunch combination is to have a few key ingredients prepped ahead of time, be creative, and add color. Eating food that is beautiful is half the experience. I often have leftover cooked grains, some beans, and leftover dressings hanging out, and to that I add whatever vegetables and herbs are on hand and sound good. If, on the off chance I do not have ingredients prepped, I reach for quick grains like millet, quinoa, and buckwheat and cook them, along with a pot of lentils, while getting ready for my day. They all can be ready within 20 minutes.

The photos I’m sharing here are random compilations of beans and rice that I’ve made over the last few months for busy day lunch or dinners. They are only just a start, so go ahead and be adventurous!

 

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Quinoa, white beans, roasted beets and onions, matchstick carrots, greens mix + turmeric special sauce

 

Turmeric Special Sauce, makes 2 cups

This is my current dressing of choice. Adapted from David and Luise by way of Laura, it is packed with a lot of nutritional goodies. In my current quest to eat a few more fats from whole foods rather than oils, I’ve eliminated the oil from the original recipe, added lentils for a little more protein, which I tend to eat on the lower end for my needs, spiced it up with additional chili powder. The turmeric and nutritional yeast add color, umami flavor, and B-vitamins, plus much of the latest research has turmeric as a real powerhouse in terms of health benefits. All in all, this sauce is a good one, has a tiny kick that is completely balanced amongst all the other bowl ingredients, and comes together quickly, if you remember to soak the seeds. I especially like it with beets because in my opinion, vibrant salads taste just a touch better.

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2-4 hours

1 – 1 1/4 cup water

1 1/2 Tbs. nutritional yeast (flakes)

1/4 cup cooked lentils, white or mung beans

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. maple syrup

1/2 tsp. cumin

3/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper, or to taste

  • Drain and rinse the soaked seeds, and then add them, along with all the other ingredients to a food processor. Purée until smooth, adding a little more water as needed to thin it out. Adjust seasonings to taste.


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